The first really adult, complex, worthwhile science fiction movie ever to have been made?
WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A journalist tries to uncover the exact nature of the relationship between legendary robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin and her ex-lover, Alfred Lanning, director of U.S. Robotics and Mechanical Men.
The Citizen Kane-style plot is told in the form as flashbacks as Dr. Calvin’s story is retold to the journalist during a funeral.
SOURCE: A screenplay written by Harlan Ellison, based on a collection of nine short stories by science fiction legend Isaac Asimov published between 1940 and 1950, one of which introduced Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics.
WHO’S INVOLVED? Screenwriter and legendary science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, producer Ben Roberts (creator of the original Charlie’s Angels TV series), Warner Brothers.
LAST WE HEARD: In the wake of Star Wars in 1977 Warner Brothers contacted Harlan Ellison and asked him to write a screenplay based on Asimov’s famous Robot stories. Ellison obliged, but were dropped from the project when he accused the film’s producer of having the “intellectual capacity of an artichoke.” According to Ellison the producer commented on the script during a meeting without even having read it!
WHY IT’D BE GREAT: Asimov said back then that Ellison’s screenplay would result in “the first really adult, complex, worthwhile science fiction movie ever made.” That’s enough endorsement for us!
THE PROBLEM: I, Robot was eventually made into a movie in 2004 starring Will Smith. Only problem was that the end product had nothing to do with Asimov’s original stories. Instead it was based on an existing 1995 screenplay by Jeff Vintar, entitled Hardwired. Later on other screenwriters imported the Three Law of Robotics into the mix and took some character names from the original short stories in addition to adding some more action sequences. One wonders why the studio even bothered buying the rights to the Asimov stories in the first place!
CHANCES OF GETTING MADE: Zero. Seems that Ellison was right in being skeptical about Hollywood when one looks at the missed opportunity that was I, Robot. Asimov wrote his Robot stories in reaction to the many robot rebellion stories prevalent at the time. What was the 2004 film about? Yup, a robot rebellion . . .